CF is unique from many other diseases because to the outside world we often look healthy albeit a little skinny. People are often shocked when I tell them I have a chronic condition because they expect me to look sick or have an outwardly visible sign of my illness. In my teens years, and honestly even to this day, I am grateful that by appearance I am not labeled as "sick" or "different." With this being said, there is a small hint hidden among my body besides the subtle PICC scars that can clue one in that something is not quite right.
I was often teased for one thing in elementary school: my finger nails. It was only by a couple of kids, but for the life of me I could not figure out why. (I had a late diagnosis. Check out My Cf Story for more details)I would look at my nails completely baffled. What was so weird or different about them? I needed to know and because I was to mortified to ask my teasers, I made a conscious decision to start noticing other kids' nails. I quickly discovered that all nails look really different which left me perplexed. Some kids had nubby nails, others were chewed almost completely off, others had long nail beds, but mine were weird?. I couldn't figure it out. I went home and looked at my siblings nails. All 3 of us had very different looking nails. How did kids decide that out of all the different nails in the world mine were weird.
One summer, my aunt came to visit my family. We rarely saw her and we were so excited to see her again. As we were all gathered around breakfast my parents asked her to look at my nails. She was nurse and because at this time we still were trying to figure out why I coughed so much they thought she may have some insight. I know my family did not do this to make me feel bad, but I couldn't help feeling immense amounts of shame washing over my body. I was a freak and even my parents thought so! I honestly have no idea what she said. I am sure she knew it was clubbing and linked to lung disease, but I was melting away inside my own skin and did not hear a word anyone said.
Not long after this incident I was finally diagnosed with CF. The Dr explained the clubbing of my fingers and toes. (Here is some info if you don't know what it is. ) With the Drs explanation I realized why people said my nails were different; they were different. I was 14 and the fact that I was truly different (proven by a Dr) made me quickly decide that I never wanted to wear sandals that showed my toe nails and that I wanted to disguise my finger nails with polish. I become quiet the manicurist at that age.
I am happy to say that I no longer feel ashamed of my nails. Once my peers become less critical of others and their own self hate disappeared the teasing stopped and was often replaced with compliments. I have had several people ask me if my nails are fake when they are polished. When I explain, "No, they really are my natural nails" they often look at me like I am a liar. In fact, last year before my wedding I was getting a manicure and the manicurist was raving over my amazing nails beds. With all that being said just yesterday some man was intently staring at my feel in flip flops. I couldn't help, but feel a blush of red creep up my face and I wiggled uncomfortably going right back to that place in junior high where my nails brought me so much shame. Maybe he was daydreaming and my feet were where his eyes rested, maybe he liked my flip flops or maybe his daughter had CF and he recognized a stranger's foot. I will never know, but frankly I really don't care. I still love my nails despite their "flaws."
Click here to see a great link about why clubbing happens.